Godliness

A student asked me recently who I would vote for in this presidential election, were I to cast a vote.

I paused, not sure how to answer the question. Not because of privacy or uncertainty about the candidates, but because there was a larger question hanging in the air.

It didn’t hang there very long before another student spiked it in.

Mentioning a specific candidate by name, they reframed the question–

“Will you vote for him?”

It wasn’t an unfair question. And it’s not like I hadn’t thought about it. I listen to political talk radio. I’ve paid attention to this most unusual campaign since Day 1. And I’m as confused as anyone as to how to answer that students’ question.

In my silence, they carried on about his past life, his morality, and his seeming lack of integrity, and how none of these things seemed to sideline his candidacy for the office.

The room fell quiet again and all eyes landed on me. As if they had all collectively realized I hadn’t yet answered.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I do know, that at the end of the day, I need to be able to tell my kids, with a straight face, that goodness, godliness, moral integrity, honesty, and respect, matter.”

This isn’t a political post.

It’s more an observation of just how far our collective conscience has moved from the center.

We are quick to say that goodness is important, but we are also willing to overlook the lack of it, if doing so is within our best interest.

And then we ask the rhetorical question, “What’s that got to do with it?”

I’m only writing this as an observation.

My observation is this:

More than ever before, the political climate in our country reveals that the call to godliness has ceased to exist; it is no more, and may in fact be the most countercultural virtue in existence.

Over and over in the Old Testament, God tells His people:

You must be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; et. Al.).

The word holy means to be consecrated. Set apart for God’s use. To be reserved for Him and Him alone. To have an undivided focus upon the Lord Jesus.

The longer I live, the more I recognize this as a quality or a characteristic that is considered fleeting or even unnecessary.

We ask instead how much one can get away with now, and still win.

Even in the Christian world.

Better, especially in the Christian world.

Could this be the result of Grace?

We sing that Jesus paid it all. That He received the punishment that our sins required, His sacrifice therefore cleansing us of all our unrighteousness.

So that when God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son, because that righteousness has been applied to our accounts, on our behalves, regardless of how truly unrighteous we may live.

So we wallow freely in the tub of Grace, forgetting the price that was paid for it?

That Grace was not free.

And we are called to be godly. Holy.

Peter says to “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness…” (2 Peter 1:5-6).

Paul says it this way: “Walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel” (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27).

The expression there “to walk” means “to live, to conduct ones’ life.”

More pointedly, he writes:

Live a life worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10).

It’s the second half of the line of the hymn quoted above:

Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.

My life is no longer my own. “I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

This call to purity and to godliness is perhaps the most countercultural virtue in existence. We are called to protect and maintain our personal moral rectitude, our internal piety, before the Lord. Not for the approval of others, not to be seen as religious or uppity, but to make much of His sacrifice.

The gift of Grace is a great one. It can never be exhausted. And thank God –because we need it. I especially.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners –of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

I need that Grace.

But it is not there to make us lazy. And perhaps we have unwittingly allowed it to do just that, by taking our eyes off of our Lord and His purity.

Hebrews 2 teaches that if we do not personally and intentionally tether ourselves to Him and to His Gospel, we will be carried away, like a current pulling at a tethered raft.

We must daily, hourly, sometimes twice an hour, remind ourselves.

Reframe. Re-reference.

Because we live out our salvation on a world canvas stained by sin, when we take our eyes off of Him, we slowly begin to analyze and assess from the perspective of a sin-covered canvas. The ideals that our Lord calls us to fall by the wayside, and we end up with a seemingly impossible list of “Well, at least it’s not’s” and “I guess this is better than’s.”

We compare and contrast from the point of view of the canvas.

Echoing in our ears is the old familiar call “You must be holy, because I am holy.”

Yes, I saved you.

Yes, I raised you.

But I raised you above the canvas.

Stop settling.

Be holy. Be pure. Be godly.

The word godly almost doesn’t need to be defined, does it? It seems to plainly mean to be like God. To share His character. To walk the way He walked, to live the way He lived.

Peter does not say to sit idly by and enjoy the salvation that He purchased for you. He says to intentionally grow your godliness. He says to make every effort

not to make every excuse.

We’re so cautious about the word work in our vocabularies describing salvation, but we’ve overcorrected. We should not abandon the concept of work altogether. We abandon it when it is used to imply our struggle for salvation.

The struggle is over.

Jesus ended that struggle.

We do not work for our salvation.

But we do, however, work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Lord, help us every day to be conformed more and more into Your image. Help us not grow lax, lazy, or weary. Help us to realize in every setting, in every situation, that we do not come become godly when we just live life, but it takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness. And You have called us to this. Lift our eyes above the dirty playing field we exist upon. Help us to see from Your perspective, the one You have raised us to. Amen.

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